It's 'now or never' as Henson takes final shot at glory


Gavin Henson has had so many last chances he could have bought himself the saloon.

The latest final shot at re-establishing himself as an international rugby player begins tomorrow night when he makes his debut for Cardiff Blues in a Pro 12 league derby against Newport-Gwent Dragons, and as the shop-soiled celebrity midfielder agreed, there is a strong "now or never" element this time. "I have to make this work," he acknowledged. "I'm not getting any younger, I'm playing for a contract... This is it, really."

Not that Henson will be playing in midfield first up. Dismissed by so many, so often, as a perma-tanned poseur with a hole in his sporting make-up where professional pride should have been, he will be given a chance to impress at full-back. If things work out, he is likely to feature in the Blues' other big seasonal set-to, at Ospreys on New Year's Day. Given Henson's long association with, and difficult departure from, the Swansea-based regional side, there is likely to be a piping hot welcome from the locals at the Liberty Stadium. "As long as people turn up, they can say what they like," he said, grinning broadly.

The 29-year-old has not played a competitive game since busting his wrist during the World Cup warm-up match between Wales and England at the Millennium Stadium in August. Had he survived and thrived that day, he might well have made it to the global gathering in New Zealand. As he did neither he was left scratching around for a club willing to ignore his history at Ospreys – not to mention subsequent stints at Saracens and Toulon, both of which ended in tears – and give him an opportunity to rediscover the best of himself, which is a better "best" than most other players of his generation can offer.

"I nearly snuck into the World Cup squad, but it was probably right that I didn't go in the end," said Henson, admitting once again that he had not done enough justify inclusion. "I'd like to think I'm a good rugby player, though, and I want to be involved with Wales again. I've missed Wales – not just playing for the national team, but everything to do with living in the country. It's my home. It's my call to start again and I'm relieved to be playing this weekend. I'm not good with injury: I've been in some dark places before, but recovering from this one really has been hard. I was a little nervous about coming back a couple of weeks ago, but I'm pretty confident about it now."

On the other side of the Severn, the Rugby Football Union confirmed that John Wells and Mike Ford, the two members of the recently disbanded England coaching team whose future – or lack of it – at Twickenham had yet to be clarified, have severed all links with the red-rose operation. Following the resignations of the manager Martin Johnson and the attack coach Brian Smith in the wake of the World Cup failure and its painful public post mortem, together with the departure of the kicking technician Dave Alred, it was never likely that Wells, the forwards strategist, nor Ford, the defence specialist, would be kept on, although Wells was linked to a possible job with the age-group sides.

Of Johnson's back-room staff, only the scrum expert Graham Rowntree will be involved with England during the forthcoming Six Nations Championship. There has not been a coaching reorganisation on this scale since Sir Clive Woodward starting piecing together a new team in 1997.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower